Supporters of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge breathed a collective sigh of relief this afternoon at the Trinity Trust as Mayor Tom Leppert announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approved levee remediation plans submitted by the Texas Department of Transportation. The plans ensure that construction on the approaches for the bridge can resume, meeting a December 1 deadline that could have triggered a costly delay to the project.
"This is an exciting day, not just for all of us in this room, but for the citizens of Dallas and everyone in North Texas," Leppert said. "This bridge will be finished as promised. We never faltered or doubted that the levees are the same levees that have been protecting this city from floods for the last 45 years."
Leppert, who was joined at the press conference by council colleagues Dave Neumann and Pauline Medrano, said basic remediation is required for both sides of the levee system, one of which was already part of the plans for the bridge -- a seepage berm on the west levee. He described the remediation to the east levee as a two-tiered slope-stability berm and said a cost for the fix will be determined shortly. City Manager Mary Suhm said the cost "won't be millions."
"Perhaps to you it's beginning to sound a bit cliché, but make no mistake about it, this dream, their dream, our dream is becoming a reality," Leppert said of the bridge's opening in 2011.
After noting that the Golden Gate Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge also faced issues, Leppert explained the significance of such projects. "They symbolize our determination to overcome obstacles to progress. They also signify our ability to find solutions and succeed. They also represent achievements beyond measure and provide a public service for both the present and the future."
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Leppert briefly mentioned the recent levee slide, stressing that repairs have already begun, and he said 105 of the 198 areas cited by the corps in April as unacceptable have been corrected. "As you all know, Dallas has been blessed -- and we'll put that in parenthesis -- with large amounts of rainfall, and despite these additional challenges and timelines, these fixes have been made by a truly dedicated city staff led by our city manager, Mary Suhm."
A possible candidate to run for U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison's seat should she resign next year, Leppert did some big-time Republican name-dropping during the end of his speech, mentioning that former President George W. Bush told him recently that he has been spending "a great deal of time" riding the bike trails near the Trinity River.
As he often does, Leppert said the Trinity project is "moving forward" and claimed he continues to do "what the Dallas voters asked us to do." He added that he's "optimistic" that the corps will approve the Trinity River toll road.